SAN QUENTIN (CBS SF) — An out-of-control COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin State Prison grew to 1,100 confirmed cases among inmates and staff members Monday with seriously ill convicts being transferred to ICU units across the San Francisco Bay Area.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s web site, there were 1,011 active cases Monday morning among the 3,776 inmates housed at the facility.
Of those cases, 968 have been confirmed over the last 14 days. None of the infected inmates have recovered from the virus. Among the staff, prison officials said 89 have been confirmed as being infected with six recovering enough to return to work.
So far, at least 25 inmates were being treated at Bay Area hospitals under heavy security, including Marin General, Seton Medical Center and Saint Francis Hospital in San Francisco.
A prisoners’ rights group hosted a virtual weekend town hall with community members to address their concerns. Among those who participated was a current San Quentin inmate.
“The longer this pandemic stays in any form in our state, the longer and farther along we are to getting back to any sense of normalcy in our lives,” said San Quentin inmate Adamu Chan.
Prison officials had hoped to move dozens of inmates out to San Quentin to a state prison in Delano in Kern County on Monday but those plans were shelved after two inmates slated for transfer tested positive for the virus.
In was a similar transfer that triggered the San Quentin outbreak. Public health officials point to a transfer of more than 120 inmates from Chino to San Quentin in late May as the likely source of the virus.
On Friday, Marin County — where San Quentin is located — rolled back plans for further easing of local COVID-19 restrictions on Monday because cases among local residents were on the rise and the outbreak at the prison.
“We planned to take a big step forward on Monday, but instead we are taking a smaller step,” said Dr. Matt Willis, the county’s health director, in a video posted Friday night. “Indoor restaurants, hair salons are still on deck for Monday, but gyms, personal services, hotels and short term rentals will be paused for now. Here’s why we are tapping the breaks. Yesterday, 54 new COVID-19 cases were reported (in Marin County) which is the single largest number on any day so far. In addition there are 12 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Marin and five in intensive care.”
Willis also cited the San Quentin outbreak.
“Compounding the problem is an outbreak at San Quentin Prison,” he said. “While this is a sequestered and distinct population of almost 4,000 inmates and 1,000 staff — it’s still part of our county. San Quentin is experiencing the largest prison outbreak of COVID-19 in the state with nearly 600 cases among inmates and 75 among staff in just over 2 weeks. This has stressed local hospital capacity because at least 25 inmates have required hospitalization within the region.”
“These are not easy decisions,” Willis continued of plans to slow reopenings. “Taken together, the spikes in cases statewide, regionally and in our own community, increased hospitalization and ICU stays and large prison outbreak that is still uncontrolled within our borders — We need to take a more caution approach.”